But Have They Changed? Repentance & Reconciliation
Jesus & Toxic People: Part 2 (Betrayal)
Hi, friends. This is Part 2 of a 4 Part Series on the toxicity that lies within “Betrayal”. If you would like to first check out Part 1, please click HERE.
If you’d like to check out the other posts written last year on responding to toxic people, you can check those out HERE.
Joseph’s story is possibly one of the greatest examples of betrayal in the Old Testament. He was betrayed multiple times by family and those close to him. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of the high calling God placed on his life, so they sold him to slave traders. Not only that, they told their father, Jacob, that their brother was dead. It’s hard to imagine how Joseph trusted anyone after being betrayed by his own family, but he continued to trust in God despite his circumstances (Gen. 37-38).
Shortly after being betrayed by his family, Joseph was betrayed yet again by his employer’s wife. Everything seemed to be looking up for Joseph when he was sold into the house of Potiphar, an Egyptian captain of the guard for Pharoah. Potiphar noted that God was clearly with Joseph, and Joseph prospered while in Potiphar’s home. But Potiphar’s wife took notice of Joseph and lustfully approached him on several occasions. After several failed attempts to seduce Joseph, Potiphar’s wife claimed Joseph tried to rape her. Joseph was then convicted and thrown into prison (Gen. 39).
Putting myself in Joseph’s shoes, I can’t say I would have the brightest outlook on relationships. If my family were to betray my trust and then my employer’s wife get me thrown in prison, I know I would have a hard time trusting people again. But Joseph continued to be a man who followed, trusted and obeyed God despite what was happening to him. And with that, others took notice.
Joseph was forgotten in prison for a time by everyone except God. At the right time, God used Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams to help Pharaoh. He shared about a coming famine that would affect all of Egypt. Pharoah rightfully noted how only God could have revealed this information to Joseph. And because of this, Joseph was appointed as ruler of Egypt. He was able to help all Egyptians by stocking up on food in the land for seven years to prepare for the famine that would last another seven years. (Genesis 40-41).
But God wasn’t done using Joseph in this powerful role. Shortly after Joseph’s rise to power, he came face to face with his family after many years. His brothers were in need of food during the famine and were sent to get provisions for their families. When Joseph’s brothers approached him, they didn’t recognize their younger brother in his position of power, but he immediately recognized each of them.
From this point in Joseph’s story, it’s important to note how he interacted with his family in order for reconciliation to take place. He clearly possessed God-given wisdom in how to approach this emotionally tumultuous situation. On one hand, Joseph could have easily taken revenge and pushed his family’s needs aside. He also could have quickly identified himself and welcomed his brothers back into his life, but he does neither.
At this time, Joseph had most likely forgiven his brothers before ever interacting with them. This is explained later in Genesis 45 and 50 and can be seen in Joseph’s emotional response to his brothers. From the text, it’s clear Joseph struggled with the separation from his family, as he turned away from them to weep on multiple occasions (Gen. 42:24, Gen. 43:39). While he did miss them, he used God-given wisdom to approach a situation where he held strong emotions for people he cared about. Just because Joseph had forgiven his brothers, didn’t mean he was ready to welcome his family back into his life.
While our emotions are important, they can easily lead us into making regretful decisions if we don’t turn them back over to God. Joseph recognized the advantage he possessed in using anonymity and his position of power to see if his brothers had repented and changed their ways. While Joseph does provide for his family in their time of need, he continued to keep his identity a secret in order to properly test his brothers’ character.
Like Joseph, if someone has broken your trust, it’s right to be wary of that person. Yes, forgiveness is essential, but it’s also important to walk with caution. Forgiveness doesn’t automatically mean you should welcome a betrayer back into your life (This will be discussed later on in part 4).
If Joseph was going to let his former betrayers back into his life, he first had to make sure they had changed their ways. Joseph tested his brothers on multiple occasions, but on the final test, he placed his own cup in his youngest brother, Benjamin’s pack- making it look like the cup was stolen. When Benjamin was “caught” having Joseph’s cup in his pack, Joseph demanded that he stay as his slave. While this may seem cruel, Joseph did this to see how his older brothers would respond. Did they care about the well-being of their youngest brother? Were they at all concerned about how this would affect their father back at home?
It’s at this moment that Judah, Joseph’s older brother, stepped up and asked to take his brother’s place. Judah’s response showed a huge change in his character. He once sold Joseph into slavery without remorse, but this time he willingly volunteered to become a slave (with the possibility of death) so that his youngest brother, Benjamin, did not have to be separated from their father (Gen. 44). Judah was willing to lay down his life for his family. Judah’s sacrifice showed a change of heart. He clearly had repented and changed his ways.
When Joseph saw the change in Judah, he immediately revealed himself to his brothers and was soon joyously reunited with his father and family (Gen. 45). Judah is later blessed beyond measure by their father and is in the direct family line to Jesus Christ. Only God could have orchestrated such an amazing reconciliation and turn of events from betrayal.
If we are to learn anything from Joseph’s story, it’s that God does not leave us or forsake us in our hardships- what others meant for evil, God can use for good. It doesn’t matter how horrible of a betrayal we may have experienced, God can use us and our stories for something greater.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.Gensis 50:20
While Joseph’s story (and Judah’s) have a happy ending, not all stories of betrayal end in reconciliation. Judah and Joseph could reconcile because Judah clearly took steps of repentance and changed his ways. Joseph was wise to test and recognize this change in his brother in order for reconciliation to happen.
But maybe your story of betrayal has resulted in separation or limited contact with your betrayer because of a deep wound. Some cases of betrayal don’t end in reconciliation in the relationship. There are many examples and stories of betrayal that stretch throughout the Bible, but the greatest example of betrayal is that of Jesus Christ and His journey to the cross. Through Christ’s example, we can learn how to respond and forgive those who have betrayed us.
**Stay Tuned for Part 3 which will look at Jesus’ experience and response to multiple betrayals**
Part 2 Reflection Questions:
- How was Joseph betrayed?
- What did he continually do despite being betrayed by those closest to him?
- Who should you first turn to in response to a betrayal?
- Why was it necessary for Joseph to test his brothers?
- What do you think would have happened if his brothers hadn’t changed? Would Joseph have been able to reconcile with his brothers? Why or why not?
- Why is forgiveness necessary?
- Does forgiveness always mean reconciliation? (This will be discussed in part 4)
- What are ways we can see if someone has changed after hurting us?
Photo by cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/happy-young-teenage-boys-hugging-each-other-10536994/